Reviewer:Hans Wollstein -
February 25, 2006 Subject:
Cheyenne Bill Rides Again
Benjamin Franklin Wilson (yep, that was his name!) spent his entire screen career producing, directing, writing and occasionally starring in literally hundreds of low-budget Westerns and serials, many, like "Thundering Thompson," made far away from mainstream Hollywood in dusty little California hamlets. Westerns, especially, were cheap to produce by enterprising fly-by-night outfits in that they demanded little more than a personable hero (here Cheyenne Bill, real name Henry William McKechnie), a pretty maiden (in this case frequent Wilson collaborator Neva Gerber), a nasty villain (the ever-present Al Ferguson who all but twirls his mustache) and a workmanlike plot. This time the enduring ranchers vs. sheepmen sufficed. "Thundering Thompson" was one of at least 7 "Cheyenne Bill" Westerns released by Gower Gulch entrepreneur Morris Schlank in 1928-1929 (the exact date of production is unknown) concurrently with a series starring stuntman extraordinaire Cliff Lyons. McKechnie and Lyons would show up in each other's vehicles and Lyons here plays the so-called comedic sidekick in, sadly, blackface. In order to avoid costly set dressings and wardrobes, most of these budget Westerns were set in the contemporary West and "Thundering Thompson" contains a reference to the great football star of the 1920s, "Red" Grange. Except for Lyons, who along with Yakima Canutt became one of the founding fathers of stunt doubling, none of the participants enjoyed much success in talkies. Wilson himself died in 1930 and Miss Gerber retired at the advent of sound after an unsuccessful attempt to rejuvenate her career as Jean Dolores. Al Ferguson moved from top supporting roles to minor bit parts, and Cheyenne Bill himself left movies to become an engineer in such faraway places as China and the Philippines. He died in 1979. As for "Thundering Thompson," Cheyenne's sole surviving proof of his existence, well it remains worthwhile viewing for lovers of the obscure. But beware of a score that appears just a wee bit over the top for such plebeian goings-on. Hans J. Wolstein.
Reviewer:Bent Forkman -
November 22, 2005 Subject:
In a silent film I'm always watching to see how the physical action in the shots tells the story, but in this film the plot is driven by title cards of dialogue and when there is physical action it's almost all on horseback. in a way the horses are the real actors. I think that makes this film into a "horse ballet".
This is a really good redux of the western genre. It has lawless righteousness, plenty of fisticuffs, horses, guns and a "blackface" character.
Three stars for historic signifigance.
July 28, 2005 Subject:
Ranchers Vs The Sheepherders Once Again!
This a straight forward little western. Superior print, including a blue tinted night scene is very watchable.Cheyenne Bill as Deputy Thundering Thompson comes to town to arrest a hapless female shepherd (silent serial and western star Neva Gerber)and her father. He discovers that an evil cowman(Al Ferguson, a long time taciturn villian in films from 1912 to 1958)and his crew have set a frame-up. After Thompson is beaten up in a fight and is rescued by "Efe" (Cliff Lyons in black-face. Lyons who was one of the most skillful stunt men in films and associated with stunt work in various ways behind the camera well in his 70's is probably the most notable cast member looking back on his entire body of film work.) Thompson proceeds to dish out justice to the bad guys. An especially long fight sequence caps off the film and ends on a happy note.
Cheynne Bill and Neva Gerber were out of films by 1930 and the coming of sound, but they looked good.
Again somebody somewhere decided to add a generic 1950's action musical soundtrack, some of which seems familiar, and some of which hits the mark, and some of which doesn't. Worth a look.